What is involved in applying for daycare in Japan?

How long does it take?

This article will explain everything about applying for nursery school in Japan.

Step 1 – Figure out when you want to enter the daycare

The school year in Japan runs April to March, so kids entering in April will be there from the start of the year. The means that April is the easiest time to enter daycare as there are many available spots. After April, some facilities will still have spaces available but not as many and some schools may be full.

Step 2 – Figure out when to apply

If you want to enter daycare from April, you generally need to apply by December 10 (approximately) the previous year. There is a second round in January to which you can apply if you missed out. For starting in other months, you need to apply 1.5 months in advance. For example, to start on September 1st, you need to apply by August 10th (this date varies by ward). So, if you apply on August 11th, you cannot enter the nursery until October 1st as you missed the deadline.

Step 3 – Make a list of all the daycares that you want to apply for

If you have time and flexibility, you can go through the list and choose the best ones based on location, hours of care, the facility and so on. You can find a list of nurseries in your ward by searching the internet for “list of nursery schools ward name-ku” (in Japanese). For example, these are all the nurseries in Kita-ku. You will need to use an online translator for this, or enlist a service like Omakase Helper.

Write down the schools you like, up to 10, and rank them from best to worst.

If you are desperate and need a daycare ASAP, you can go to your ward office and ask them to tell you which schools have availability for the age you need, and simply apply for those. Alternatively, Omakase Helper can find a school for you.

There are also unlicensed facilities, company daycares and at home daycares, but this article is about licensed daycares which you apply to through your ward (the cheapest option).

Step 4 – Organise visits to the facilities

This is optional. If you want to go and see the daycare in person, call them to organise a “kengaku”, a tour of the school.

You might want to ask questions like:

  1. How long do the kids spend outside per day?
  2. What do I need to bring daily?
  3. What are the hours? Is there weekend care?
  4. How many kids per class?
  5. What is the nap schedule? Do the 4 and 5 year old classes nap?
  6. Where is the food prepared?
  7. Do you throw away nappies or do parents need to bring them home?

And so on, prepare your questions in advance.

Step 5 – Compile the necessary paperwork

There are many documents to submit when applying for hoikuen. These include:

  • The application form
    • On this form you will rank your chosen hoikuen in order of preference
  • A certificate of employment from both parents (your company needs to fill it in)
  • A proof of address (such as a juminhyo)

You can visit your ward in advance to check exactly which forms are required, and they will give you a copy of them.

Step 6 – Apply

Go to the ward office and submit your application. If you are successful, you will receive a phone call within a couple of weeks, followed by an official letter. If you are not successful, the application is valid for six months.

If you would like to enrol your child in hoikuen but find this too overwhelming, we can help you. Check out our schooling help packages.

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